The Language of God

In stages of glory, I grieve for you my friend. In surprising fashion as God always is, I grieve for you in the native tongue of our Lord. It is a deep expression of who we are as Jewish people, strong, glorious, deeply bonded to Him. I can find no other way to grieve but in the beloved language of my Lord Jesus. Thank you God for giving me words in a language that is too glorious for them.

For those that have never heard Adon Olam, I have included this beautiful rendition with the English translation. God is so beautiful in His native language, when He is unclothed, available and crying back out to us. When in doubt, praise Him, and praise Him again. These are the words I have heard from Him today.

Recently in my interview on EWTN, I talked about my prayer life in Hebrew and growing up in the conservative Jewish temple. I specifically spoke about my ability to read and pray in Hebrew but my inability to understand it. Yet, I felt closest to God when I was praying in Hebrew. I questioned whether God even understood English 🙂

I have realized that in our mourning we go back to what we know and who we are. It was no coincidence for me that I attended a Shiva last night after a friend’s mom died. Even though I didn’t join the minyan, I chanted in the back. It was chilling. But it wasn’t the mourner’s kaddish that moved me, it was the Jewish liturgical hymn “Adon Olam,” a praise song. Why did that connect with me? Why did that move me? I didn’t know it last night, but right after I came home from the Shiva is when I found out Susan died. And in the morning it was Adon Olam:

MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE
Adon olam, asher malach,
b’terem kol y’tzir nivra.
L’et na’asah v’cheftzo kol,
azai melech sh’mo nikra.V’acharey kichlot hakol,
l’vado yimloch nora.
V’hu haya, v’hu hoveh,
v’hu yih’yeh b’tifara.

V’hu echad, v’eyn sheni
l’hamshil lo, l’hachbira.
B’li reishit, b’li tachlit,
v’lo ha’oz v’hamisrah.

V’hu Eli, v’chai go’ali,
v’tzur chevli b’et tzarah.
V’hu nisi umanos li,
m’nat kosi b’yom ekra.

B’yado afkid ruchi
b’et ishan v’a’irah.
V’im ruchi g’viyati,
Adonai li v’lo ira.The Lord of the Universe who reigned
before anything was created.
When all was made by his will
He was acknowledged as King.

And when all shall end
He still all alone shall reign.
He was, He is,
and He shall be in glory.

And He is one, and there’s no other,
to compare or join Him.
Without beginning, without end
and to Him belongs diminion and power.

And He is my G-d, my living G-d.
to Him I flee in time of grief,
and He is my miracle and my refuge,
who answers the day I shall call.

To Him I commit my spirit,
in the time of sleep and awakening,
even if my spirit leaves,
G-d is with me, I shall not fear.

It is understandbly confusing how one could express their grief in a language they do not understand but completely understand. Every word touched me. And even though you may not be Jewish, if you listen to the words of Adon Olam, they will move you too.

There is a move of the Spirit in Hebrew that is undeniable, I can hear Jesus speaking. And as I recited the rosary this morning for my dear sister, I cried out in Hebrew afterwards to God as if I already knew the words. I think grief produces in us the ability to connect with a part of us we don’t necessarily understand but want to touch. When I look up at the crucifix, I could cry this out to Jesus, God you are my God, adonai , King of the universe, abba it hurts, it hurts abba…

But I am gratful. I am grateful for the words God wrote that I never could. I am grateful for words that flow off my tongue and have meaning besides consonants and vowels. I am grateful for the Blessed Mother who stayed with me during the sorrowful mysteries and cried with me, Adon Olam.

 

To Susan, I miss You

Susan, I miss you dearly. I will miss your words, your encouragement your grace, but most of all I will miss your unwavering acceptance of me for who I am, no more no less. Rest in peace my sweet sister, heaven has indeed become real for me today.

God is in your typewriter

Death is an untimely beast. I am taken aback by its ugliness and unwillingness to give us a warning. As much as my hope lies in the promise of eternity, I am still reminded of my humanness, my inability to process grief, and my connection to people I’ve never met.

I joined this blogging community several years ago. I was led by the Holy Spirit to follow my writing dreams through the profession of my faith on a world-wide stage. My thoughts at the time were that it would simply be a writing platform, until I started reading more about this blogging concept and the community that was created.

So much of what I read talked about blogging not as some platform for writing itself, but rather for a chance to engage, to meet people and to join the conversation. I learned quickly that my idea of blogging had turned into…

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Does God hate the F word?

“We sat with “It’s Time” for a year or year-and-a-half. Sometimes you just have to let a song sit for awhile. “

-Dan Reynolds, Imagine Dragons

The full interview can be found here

I find that music can sometimes be so fabricated you can’t touch it. Tracks playing, other people penning the music. Lyrics can be catchy, but still and lifeless, produced in a backroom by someone who doesn’t know the artist or the story that they are trying to sing.

It took several switches today on the radio dial to find a song with some sort of message or purpose. Normally I would usually hum along to whatever Christian music was playing at the time since I had my kids in the car, but today was different. Today I needed more than manufactured fluff.

I got agitated with every rhythm and turned back and forth between the Coffee House channel and Classic Vinyl, but nothing seemed to give way. Usually Paul Simon may do it for me, but not today. No; I needed something much deeper than that…

And so a song came on that I hadn’t heard in awhile, Imagine Dragons’ “It’s Time”, whose lyrics began to remind me of a more complicated time in my life. And although I wanted to turn it off, I couldn’t. Even with the polished track, you could feel and understand the songs depth and overreaching power to remind us that we are who God created us to be.

I wondered if the song wasn’t quite so manufactured, if it was in its most raw and pure form, if it would affect me differently. I quickly found the acoustic version to test out my theory, which quickly proved true. Unadulterated and unfiltered, unmanufactured, imperfect, pure voice and rhythm, I couldn’t help but think that this was such a metaphor for the lives we live.  If we could live our lives acoustically, real, no cloudiness, extras, filters, in our purest most honest form, wouldn’t the music sound so much sweeter?

I realized how afraid I was of living like that. Of continuing to expose who I am and how God is changing me. Exposing my faults, talking about my troubles and complexities. I realized just how hard it was to be a raw and honest human.

When you read or listen to the words of those people who you know are being completely honest, it reminds you how hard it was for them and that we are not alone. The song, the writing sounds different, almost uneven and uncomfortable. There are trembling voices, unsteady words, awkwardness and how could you’s. The reality is what makes us uncomfortable, or as Dan Reynolds puts it, “When a song is most honest and most raw that’s when you know you’re doing something right.”

And I want my song to be like that. I want to be like that. Completely transparent and open, not holding anything back, “Packing my bags and giving the Academy a rain check.”

I am terrified. Terrified to just be who I am, terrified I’m not good enough, terrified that maybe I’ll be a terrible failure at Christianity, for the road is oftentimes fraught with rockiness and heartache. I remembered yesterday when I asked God, no, no rather I screamed out loud, “Where the F are you??????”

But I cannot be anything else than who I am. I can’t be a boxed in Christian. I am not a saint. I am just trying to be me.

Jesus lives at Starbucks

When I read the words, Ubi tres, ibi Ecclesia, Where three are, there is a churchI imagined us. It’s based on Jesus’s teaching in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Jesus’s non-traditional notions of “church” were in direct contradiction to the requirements of the Jewish law to have ten men present to make a congregation.

Did he say it just to contradict the teaching of the religious or because there was something far deeper? Christians use this verse many times when praying, but this also contradicts the idea that Jesus is always with us, even when we are alone. 

There is a bigger and brighter idea here. A concept that breaks through all religious notions and rules. There is no number of times a day to pray, no specific place, no time of day. There are no correct words. The concept of two or three is to remind us that even in the midst of the smaller number of two or three, we form a church, a body, a moving being. We don’t need a building, or a denomination or seventy-two ministries to call ourselves Christians. We just need a good friend, an open hand and our loving God.

There is a great treasure to be found in the power of two. It is more than just ourselves. It is another person holding us saying it’s going to be ok. It’s another image of God staring at us. It’s God picking us up when we are unable to pray. It’s creating a congregation in a house, in the midst of a work-space or out here in the abyss of cyberspace.

I have had church in closed-door meetings, the floor of a friend’s house, in front of the Blessed Sacrament on the kneeler. Some of my most profound prayers have been prayed in the most unlikely of places. You don’t have to be in church to lead someone to Jesus, and for me, Starbucks seems to be the place where He appears the most. Maybe there is something about a cup of hot coffee and God. Or maybe it is the place where longer conversations can take place, philosophy still exists and people go to gather and meet and not just sit behind computer screens pretending other people are not there.

Don’t get me wrong, the mass is holy and reverent and the place you’ll find me on Sunday mornings. Not because God makes me, but because my heart implores me. And sometimes the mass contains moments that are prayers without words. Like feeding the eucharist on the tongue to a woman whose eyes are filled with tears, or hands that are wrinkled and clammy and needing His body or blessing a small child who longs for the wafer they are drawn to but know nothing about. For me being Catholic isn’t about the kneeler, it’s about the others on the kneeler with me, looking up at the same crucifix. 

If you are alone today, not religious, not part of a church, there is no need to worry. You are not alone. Grab my hand and let’s pray. Let’s have coffee

If you keep my commandments

If you ever felt alone in the way you worship, if you think your theology is the only one, if you follow rules, if you don’t follow rules, you must read Paul’s post today. All are welcome. (Comments have been disabled, please comment on the original post).

Just me being curious

In just over four weeks’ time we have a glorious spiritual retreat.  A place of recharging our souls and each other.   A place much hotter than here.  A place to relax.  To slow down.  A place to have fun.  A place with new people. A place we have never been before.  A place without church or bible.

And without those two bits we name that “holiday”.  The unspoken teaching is that a holiday is of the flesh and indulgence (and a retreat is of the spirit and restoration).

I see no difference.

I wonder why the unspoken knowing is that God cannot (really) be found in a bar or a restaurant.  Nor (really) found on a beach by the sea.  Nor (really) in the laughter and bawdy banter around a table.  Not really in the quiet contemplation of a distant horizon … a small working boat … a passing beach…

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Be Happy, God will understand

I recently listened to an interview I found by happenstance of an old acquaintance.  I had always admired her brilliance and tenacity, her quiet way and her commitment to her religion. I don’t think it is important for purposes of this story to tell you what religion she is, it is enough to know that she was devout and humble all at the same time. 

I don’t know what made me think of her, but I was curious to see what she was up to. Last I had seen, she had the perfect career and perfect life, still devout and lovely. But this interview was different. It was many years later and life was not so perfect. Her religion had not changed , but her life had. So she was quick to meld her words to fit her life’s circumstances. My God would understand this, and He would understand that. I have to make myself happy and I cannot worry about what other people think. I was perplexed. Her God had remained the same, her devotion the same, but her life had not. So she fit her God into her life’s circumstances to ascribe to a “Be Happy God will understand” theory which completely blew my mind.

These thoughts were not unlike so many I have heard and areas which Paul has recently explored on Just Me Being Curious where he discusses openly the hypocritical Christian and their unconscious quest to use the bible as a weapon. Paul goes into an in-depth discussion of whether the bible is fiction and other deep-rooted and tough questions, but the message is deeper than that. While my old acquaintance sings a song of “Be Happy God will understand” the song that Paul’s talking about is more along the lines of “The only way to believe is the way I do.” Both schools of thought though steeped in religion are cloaked in secularism. Twisting our way into what “we” believe is right or wrong based on our own selfish notions. What bothered me about the interview was not the fact that she was still devout to her God. What bothered me was that she had made God devout to her.

This is a continued thought in our culture, in our world, where we make God just ours. The bible or Quran or Torah can have only that person’s interpretations, and there is no other room. It is this way or that, no room for exploration or understanding. It is the reason that modern-day religion is more secular than it is anything else.

I look to those who have criticized Mother Teresa’s care for the dying. She a Catholic, speaking to them and praying with them in their own religion, their familiar God. Restoring their dignity in the last breath with a comfort each individual will understand. She has played a great role for me in understanding the human person and Jesus, and the dynamic that exists between the two.

You see if we were really Christians, people would know. We wouldn’t make God live in a bible, or on an altar, or in a Sunday sermon, we would let Him live in us. It’s not a matter of conversion, it is a matter of being. I don’t seek to convert anyone other than myself to be the love that Jesus is or was. I don’t subscribe to the “Be happy God will understand theory” because taken in context that is a selfish way to be. The only way for me to live is ensuring that I am doing my best to invest my happiness in you. More like, “Be happy, invest that happiness, because I acknowledge Lord that it comes from you.”

When we get outside of ourselves and realize that God is much bigger than a t-shirt or a slogan, the real work begins. Because if we’ve discovered that life is not about our own self-satisfaction but rather attending to the needs of someone who will never be able to repay us, following Jesus gets real.

If you ask me if I’m a hypocrite I’ll tell you yes, that I am working on it. If you ask me if I’ll convert you, I’ll tell you I’m too busy working on myself. If you want me to show you God, I’ll try my best. But it will probably involve a cup of coffee, admitting who and what I am and asking for your forgiveness.

Making a Spiritual Retreat at home

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It never occurred to me that I could find Jesus at home. Not the flesh and blood but the spirit. My physical sense of longing has been active for years, searching in churches and temples, sacred spaces, parks, oceans and rivers for the God I loved and the God I let go of. There have been days I have found Him deeper in the waves of the ocean than on my knees in a church. In the rough terrain of spiritual travel, the inner divine sometimes gets caught up with the worldview of spirituality. With so many different ways to celebrate God, I have often become mired in the rules and opinions of others. The beauty of humans is their willingness to go to any length to find comfort in the seat of God’s lap, but the darkness creeps up in the judgment of where that lap is. God will always be God regardless of our thoughts or opinions. But the way we relate to God is similar to the way we relate to the world; a blade of grass that speaks to me may mean nothing to you while the sound of the highway may mean everything.

I have been bed bound for several days now and the kids and husband are away. Though the pain has been great, the clarity has been far-reaching. The depths of my heart have been crying out for a spiritual retreat, a time of silence, a time away. And although I have silently prayed for these things, almost an unconscious prayer if you will, I always thought it a bit selfish to ask God for a spiritual getaway. In any event, it would never happen. I have a job and three children, a husband and a full plate; that is until I was forced into bed by something I could not control. So when the family left for the weekend I was in pain and alone. It’s been ten years or so since the last time I ever remember being alone like this. Smack dab in the middle to end of Lent I found myself here, in a desert I prayed for but never saw coming. My first thought was to reluctantly give my pain up for someone who didn’t deserve it, my least favorite person, someone who had persecuted myself and many around me. I asked God to accept my pain as a sacrifice for this man’s salvation, his reconciliation with God and a second chance at mercy.

Heading into day two, the silence seemed uncomfortable. But I noticed the sunlight coming off the kitchen window, the beautiful color of the dark wood stairs and the sound of the highway that reminded me I was not far from the chaos of the world. I wanted to create a sacred space, get on my knees on a kneeler to Mary, look at an iconic picture and find myself surrounded by darkness and candlelight. But from a bed this was impossible, so I started to research retreats at home and found nothing. So I turned back to Jesus and his methodology and the idea of spiritual retreat.

Withdraw to deserted places to pray

I realized that it didn’t take a special set of prayers, or an icon or candles. I didn’t have to fall to my knees. The ocean didn’t have to be close and I didn’t have to sit amongst flowers in a perfectly manicured garden. The house was deserted, my heart was open and I simply had to be…

Many of us find ourselves in these situations. Hectic schedules, health problems, the inability to travel due to time or money constraints. We want bigger houses, bigger jobs and bigger lives.

But bathed in silence, the places that we are planted come to life. The light shines from the darkness

I am not saying that God may not move you, He may. But chances are the thing that you are searching for is right in front of you. We are missing the wood grain, the ray of sunlight, the sacred shrines in our hearts. What we are missing is silence…

I encourage you today to drop the thoughts in your head at the threshold, invite the Holy Spirit in, sit and do absolutely nothing. Like the magic of Beauty and the Beast, the things around you will suddenly start to come to life…